DISCLAIMER: Anything you recognise belongs to JKR.
Written for the 5-4-3-2-1 challenge on HPFC, also my entry for Potions in the School Subjects Competition on HPFC.
Prompts: sunrise, nervous laughter, spill, counting, talent; late, free, favourite, unsteady; "we didn't die, does that count?" "just smile, maybe she won't notice" "you've got yourself a deal"
Characters: Terry Boot & Susan Bones
Location: Hogwarts Library
Terry cursed himself for putting them in this situation as he clasped a hand over his mouth and nose, holding back a sneeze with sheer willpower. Four feet away he could see Susan's blurred outline stiffen as Amycus Carrow passed between them, wand drawn. He waited until he heard the wheezy muttering vanish down one of the other aisles before he dared let out his breath. He started to creep slowly towards the door, but was stopped by the frantic movement of Susan's blurred figure.
Hesitating, he stepped back into the shadows just in time as Alecto's dumpy figure appeared silhouetted in the doorframe. Her deep-set eyes swept the room, peering into the deeper shadows by the arched windows, watching the moonlit tree-line patterned on the bookshelves as it swayed eerily.
They couldn't afford to get caught, not now, not with Michael still unconscious two days after the Carrows laid into him, not with Ginny gone now, and Neville being watched at every turn. If worst came to worse, Terry would have to sacrifice himself so that Susan could get away as she was their main healer. And they were counting on her more and more as Snape refused to allow 'disciplinary cases' to be seen by Madam Pomfrey. He hoped that wouldn't be necessary, as his less than pure blood status left him at risk of severe punishment at a time when the Carrows were looking to make another example. One more senior Ravenclaw dead, missing, or severely damaged might push the rest of the house to submit to the Death Eaters rule.
No, that couldn't be allowed. They would simply have to get out of here. Somehow. He held his breath again as Alecto stomped back past, down the aisle to confer with her brother, and silently thanked Professor Flitwick for drilling them so thoroughly and repeatedly in Disillusionment Charms. In fact, Terry often felt that his head of house did more for the student resistance at Hogwarts than any of the other Professors. None of the Death Eaters had been particularly adept at Charms, and neither of the Carrows had their NEWTs in it so they didn't realise that innocent, acquiescing Professor Flitwick had subtly adjusted his coursework to include a wide array of defensive, and for the older students, offensive Charms and spells.
In fact he had become a rather demanding task-master this year, requiring additional tutoring sessions from any student he felt was 'underachieving,' where he specifically focused on improving technique for advanced spells. Strangely, none of the Slytherins were ever found lacking, a fact they ignorantly claimed was due to their superior blood. Only Nott had seemed suspicious about these extra lessons, once questioning them aloud in class. Luckily Morag MacDougal had managed to draw her unusual friendship with the Slytherin to convince him not to worry, or to at least keep quiet. Combined with their DA practice, most of the older students had become competent duellists, capable of taking on their fully trained adult enemy, or so they felt, though Terry wasn't ready to put it to the test just yet.
Which meant somehow getting out of the restricted section of the Library and back to their separate houses without the Death Eater patrol catching them. Even worse, they had failed to find what they were looking for, and Michael's chances of recovery were looking slim. Not only had the teachers refused to allow Mike to be seen by the school nurse, Snape had banned her from even speaking to the students seeking to help him, preventing her from giving any aid at all.
Susan's healing knowledge was gleaned from her Mother, who had smuggled advice in her letters just as she had smuggled other muggle-borns to safety until the Ministry had caught her. Somehow Susan had recovered from the traumatic deaths of her parents and older brother, ignoring the Carrows' gleeful descriptions of how they had begged to be killed in the end. If anything, it had emboldened her all the more; as she said, she had less to lose now. She had become quite adept at cuts and scrapes, bruises and sprains, the main physical injuries suffered from the Cruciatus. She, Morag, who was also planning a career in healing, and Ginny Weasley, who claimed that six older brothers meant she had learned some healing spells had also learned to manage the weals and cuts that resulted from the horsewhip that Filch carried everywhere and used with impunity.
But whatever had happened to Michael was beyond any of their abilities. It had started off letting all the Slytherins have a go at him with the Cruciatus while the rest of the year was forced to watch. The other Ravenclaws were then ordered to torture him as well, or suffer it themselves. Not one of them had raised a wand. Then the teachers had started, layering spells unknown to Terry or any of his classmates, and when Michael had eventually passed out, his throat hoarse from nearly two hours of screaming, none of them had been able to revive him. The only thing Madam Pomfrey had been able to do was slip a list of advanced healing texts, all in the restricted section, to Susan.
Terry had gladly volunteered to be her backup as it gave him a legitimate excuse to leave his best friend's bedside and not have to look at the weeping sores and terrible bruising that covered his body. Seamus and Parvati led several Gryffindors in arranging a diversion that let them slip out of dinner unnoticed and hide in the library until curfew. Madam Pince had been banned earlier in the year from assisting students with 'unauthorised texts' and after a few curses she had bowed to their will, though she never seemed to make much effort of checking that the library was empty before locking it.
In fact, Terry had noticed her staring thoughtfully at the corner he was hidden, disillusioned, for a few seconds before leaving. Luckily they hadn't removed the charms as they attempted to unlock the entrance to the restricted section, and had been able to hide when the unearthly screech notified the Carrows to trespassers in the library.
More footsteps alerted him to the end of the Carrows' discussion, and they broke apart, Alecto taking a guarded stance at the front door while Amycus continued prowling, muttering under his breath. A rattle from the top of one of the shelves caught everyone's attention, and Terry feared for a second that Susan had inadvertently revealed herself. Amycus responded more violently and the shelf collapsed with an almighty crash, books and parchment rolls bouncing in all directions. A soft chuckle in the air above Terry's head alerted him to the likely culprit, though he hoped that Peeves' strong dislike of the Death Eaters would outweigh his amusement for revealing hidden students.
From the corner of his eye, he watched an ink bottle slowly rise from Madam Pince's desk and wander to a point three feet above his head. He closed his eyes, suppressing a flinch as one, two, three drops of ink splashed off his disillusioned head. Standing perfectly still, he prayed that Peeves would get bored and move on to a better target before they noticed, or at least would not empty the whole bottle over him, revealing an inky outline.
He heard a sigh behind his head, and a bigger splash of ink spilled down his nose, dripping from his stationary form to the floor. Then, to his immense relief, a breath of air that suggested movement swept across his neck, and suddenly Alecto was screeching as her head was doused with the remainder of the bottle. Amycus, upon hearing his sister's cry, turned and started throwing hexes blindly in her direction.
Terry bit back a laugh as Amycus accidentally hit his sister with a stunner, hesitated, then howled as a worn book bounced off his head. It was followed by a second ink-pot, Madam Pince's favourite quill-holder, and a wicked cackle and whoosh from the empty air.
Cursing even louder the foul Death Eater chased the poltergeist out as far as the door, taking a moment to sneer at his sister's prone form before reviving her. The two conferred in low voices before rising to leave, slamming the door with a resolute thud.
Five seconds of silence. Ten. Thirty. Two full minutes.
"I guess they're gone."
He jumped as Susan's whisper breathed across the back of his neck, biting down on a yelp.
"Don't scare me like that," he whispered back as they padded softly to the sealed portal.
"I suppose they locked the door on the off chance that there was someone in here."
A quick, subtle probe with his wand proved this to be correct.
"Just our luck."
"Well it could have been worse," Susan said with a sigh. "I guess we'll have to wait it out and hope that they don't check too thoroughly in the morning."
"I guess. Well it's half past midnight now. I guess we should try and get some sleep," he replied.
"And here I was about to say we should keep looking. Maybe not all the books scream, and even if they do we're not really in any more trouble than we already are."
"Except that they'll know it wasn't Peeves since they locked the door on him and he can't travel through walls like the other ghosts."
"You really think they're smart enough to figure that out?"
Terry couldn't help but laugh at that.
"I guess you're right. Well how about you search and I'll stand guard. If the book screams you hide and I'll do something to distract them when they come back."
"I do the reading and get away while you play bodyguard hero? You've got yourself a deal mister Ravenclaw."
"Are you suggesting something about my esteemed and noble house?" Terry asked jokingly as he took up a guard position near the entrance of the restricted section, mentally preparing a series of spells that could serve as a suitable distraction.
"Well you do have a certain reputation for….oh! I think this is one of them."
She dragged a thick tome from the shelf, checking the faded lettering against Madam Pomfrey's scribbled notes.
"A Guide to Dark Curses and their Rebuffals. Might have something about those nasty spells the Carrows were using on Corner."
Before he could suggest a muffling charm she had the book open and was flicking through the frail pages, muttering under her breath.
"…welting hexes…looks easy enough…hmmm…entrail expelling…no, I think we would know…burning curses, might have something about those blisters down his side…."
Terry left her to it, slumping down against the nearest shelf, wand held at the ready. The soft washing of rain against the windows and the rustle of turning pages started lulling him into a state of semi-unconsciousness, and he suddenly jerked upright with a snort.
"Relax. No-one came barging in while you were napping oh brave guardian."
Susan was smirking over a small pile of books, a full roll of parchment covered in scribbled notes by her elbow.
"Why didn't you wake me?" he demanded, groaning as he dragged himself upright from the impromptu nap. The numb tingling in his leg turned to sharp stabbing pains and he swore as he hopped about, trying not to crash into anything noisy.
"You looked tired. And now that you've slept you can keep watch for me. I think I have everything we're going to get from these."
Terry stopped hopping and sat again, looking over at her while massaging his calf. "Did you find something useful?"
"I think so. There's a potion here that should get those sores under control that will only take a day to make, and several counter-jinxes for those burns that just won't budge with the normal spells. I couldn't find anything for the pain, so we'll have to make do with what we've got and Corner will just have to tough it out."
"Every little bit helps. I'm just glad we have you and your talent for healing. Mike's tough, he'll manage if we can fix the worst of it."
"Thanks Terry." She stifled a yawn, stretching her fingers, then her back out as she stood from the table, charming her notes into a bundle that fit in her robes. "I feel hopeless sometimes when I can't fix things like I think I should be able to."
"Hopeless? You're the best healer we have as well as one of the better duellists. And you're pretty smart. For a Hufflepuff."
He couldn't resist adding the house jibe after her earlier comment.
"Yeah, well this Hufflepuff's done all the academic work tonight, so now I'm claiming my reward. Once I remember where all these books go."
"Let me give you a hand."
Terry hobbled over, gathering up the stack in his arms and letting her direct him to the appropriate shelves.
"Thanks," she repeated, not quite smothering the yawn this time. A quick glance at his watch surprised him and made him admire her all the more.
"It's nearly four, so why don't you take a kip for an bit. I'll wake you around sunrise and we can try and sneak out when Madam Pince opens up."
Her eyelids were already starting to droop as she swayed unsteadily from weariness. Quickly he grabbed her and sat her down against the shelf he had used to sleep against earlier. Balling up his cloak, he offered her the improvised pillow, which she took with a bleary smile.
"If you don't think Justin would kill me for suggesting it, you're welcome to lean on my shoulder."
"Hmmm, thanks," she replied, curling up against him without hesitation. "He wouldn't kill you. Maybe maim you a bit, but he'd probably forgive you since you were doing it to help me."
Terry tried to keep the nervous note out of his laugher as she sighed contentedly, her breathing already becoming heavy with sleep. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to mention the fact he spent a night alone with Susan using him as a pillow to Finch-Fletchley if he ever saw him again. No point prodding the erumpent, especially one with a powerful right hook and a decent Stunner.
He quickly resorted to pinching himself sharply on the ankle every few minutes in order to stay alert, passing the hours reciting potions recipes and arithmantic formulae until the first golden hints showed in the sky.
"Susan. Hey Susan. Bones, wake up."
"Five more min….huh?"
The weight jerked off his shoulder in response to his whisper. She stared at him for a few seconds, rubbing her bleary eyes.
"You're not Justin."
"'Fraid not," he replied, chuckling softly when he noticed her slight blush.
"Oooh, my head. And Hannah's never going to let me live this down. Where did I put-"
"They're in your inner pocket. Quiet now, I think Pince might be coming."
Sure enough there was a rattling of the library door and they both quickly and silently renewed their Disillusionment charms, though he couldn't be sure how effective they would be in the morning light. The slight wheeze of breath was all the warning Terry needed, his sleep-addled senses renewed momentarily with the adrenalin rush and he quickly dragged Susan back towards the study desks before Carrow had a chance to see them.
"Well?" Madam Pince's sharp enquiry echoed off the stone walls, and he heard a smack of flesh in reply.
"Don't get uppity with me bitch, I know what I heard. Them kids were in here last night. I can feel it."
"Well there doesn't appear to be anyone here now, and I doubt they could have snuck past your watchful guard, so if you will excuse me I shall go about my morning duties."
Her tone was more slightly more respectful, though clearly the acid-tongued librarian had as little patience for the Death Eaters as most of the staff, and Terry couldn't help but admire her for it.
As the hulking figure started prowling up the aisles, wand at the ready, he had a sudden flash of inspiration. If they could just evade the search for a few more minutes and make their way around to the history section they might be able to sneak out the door while Carrow's back was turned. If nothing else, as soon as his watch ticked over to eight they could pretend to have entered the library, find a book and then leave again.
"Quick, follow me and be ready with a Confundus as a backup," he whispered softly and she nodded in reply. Wraith-like they slipped from row to row, waiting until Carrow poked his head towards the shelves away from them before dashing through the open central corridor. They made it safely behind the history shelves, but Terry saw the lumbering outline of their adversary make his way back to the centre of the room through the gaps between books. Plan B it was then.
"Ok, we're getting something out for a combined project on the History of French Charms. Flitwick will back us if they ask him."
"Right," she replied, stifling another yawn. "Oh, and we should probably remove the Disillusionment Charms too."
Terry mentally berated himself for such a fundamental error as the reversed the spell and searched briefly for a suitable tome. His watch read two minutes past eight, so technically Carrow theoretically couldn't bust them for anything. It was a risk they would just have to take.
Stepping out boldly from the shelves, he headed towards the librarian's desk, feigning obliviousness to the Death Eater's presence. Suddenly he remembered the ink-stains that were probably still on his face, courtesy of Peeves' amusements, but there was no time to fix that now. Just smile and maybe she won't notice, he told himself silently as they made their way across the stone floor.
"I told you it would be in the French history section, not the Charms section," he said loudly, rolling his eyes at Susan who quickly picked up the thread.
"Well why should it be? It's for a Charms project. Only a Ravenclaw…."
They halted their argument as they reached Madam Pince, who sported a faint red weal across her cheek.
"Just this one?" she asked as the dry, wheezing behind them signalled Amycus' approach.
"Yes thank-you. We need it for Charms this morning. Bones here was supposed to get it yesterday but she couldn't find it."
"You were in here last night then missy?"
Susan manages a credible look of surprise at the Dark Arts teacher's sudden presence.
"Oh no sir. Yesterday afternoon before dinner. I had a free period."
"Well, that's all fine Mister Boot. You have it for one week, let me know if you need longer."
She gave him an odd look as she handed it over, probably noticing the ink stains. He gave her his most charming smile and nudged Susan's arm.
"Come on then. We don't want to be late for class."
They made their escape as quickly as they dared, forcing themselves not to run from the glare undoubtedly levelled at their fleeing backs as they escaped through the portal to freedom.
"That could have gone a lot worse," Susan murmured as they hurried up the stairs towards Ravenclaw tower. Obviously she wanted to try a few of the spells before class actually started in another hour, though he suspected Flitwick wouldn't object overly to their absence given the reason.
"It could have gone a lot better too," he replied testily, the lack of sleep starting to bear down in the form of a pounding headache that six flights of stairs were doing no help to.
"Well we didn't die. Does that count?"
"I suppose. Though that may be a temporary thing if your boyfriend ever hears…."
Despite the exhaustion, he couldn't help but laugh as she swatted at him. Jumping back he held the hefty tome up in defence.
"Alright, alright, forget I mentioned it. And hopefully you'll have Mike back on his feet in no time."
"Amen to that."
They grinned wearily at one another before continuing on their way.